Impact of Montgomery v. Louisiana

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, all opinions are personal.

Petitioner Montgomery was 17 years old in 1963, when he killed a deputy sheriff in Louisiana. The jury returned a verdict of “guilty without capital punishment,” which carried an automatic sentence of life without parole. Nearly 50 years after Montgomery was taken into custody, this Court decided that mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “ ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’ ” Miller v. Alabama, 567 U. S. ___, ___. Montgomery sought state collateral relief, arguing that Miller rendered his mandatory life-without-parole sentence illegal. The trial court denied his motion, and his application for a supervisory writ was denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which had previously held that Miller does not have retroactive effect in cases on state collateral review

          –577 U.S. ___ (2016)

Since three years had the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made the decision that upheld the petitioner Evan Miller in the historical decision Millerr v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___ (2012). The decision declared that the mandatory life sentence without parole for juvenile homicide offenders unconstitutional. Just three days ago, in a 6-3 ruiling, the SCOTUS ruled that 567 U.S.___(2012) must be retroactive.


Cyntoia Brown, a youth-offender who committed an attempted murder of her pimp, have been detained in a Tennesee state prison since 2007, was sentenced to lifetime in prison without the eligibility of parole in 2007. For a teen’s impulsive, unthinkable act, death in prison seems too hard a sentence. After thousands of young “lifers” grew old and died in prison, the judiciary finally acted.


The unfortunate and sad fact is that these sentencing appeal cases would be generally rejected a representation. For Henry Montgomery, it was difficult to even find an attorney that was willing to represent him and file his certiorari to the Supreme Court. Fortunately, Montgomery did find a representation that helped him to defend the case all the way until the Supreme Court. Consequently, the 9-member Roberts court determined that for every juvenile offender sentenced to lifetime imprisonment without parole federalwide, a new trial or a retrial must be granted upon request. However, where and how could these detainees find legal representations? Legal aid agencies often only help respondants, and petitioners are generally ignored. Fighting for representation will be another battle after Montgomery v. Louisiana.


Despite all odds, it is a huge anomaly that the Supreme Court accepted and upheld a case like this. The decision is a vast improvement of the American justice system. There are only two countries that still have juvenile offenders serving life imprisonment, and that number would become one very soon if these poor petitioners were granted legal representation.

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